Texas senator Ted Cruz won a decisive victory over his opponents last night in the Iowa Republican caucuses. With a total of 51,666 votes, Cruz crushed Donald Trump, the real estate mogul-turned politician, and Marco Rubio, the Florida senator. Trump and Rubio won the second and third places with 45,427 and 43,165 votes respectively.
Cruz victory came despite a series of last-minute opinion surveys which had him losing clearly to Trump. Cruz also suffered a barrage of attacks from Trump who questioned his eligibility to be president of the United States because he was born in Canada.
Cruz’s Iowa triumph was made possible by his massive get-out-the-vote operation modeled on then candidate Barack Obama’s field operation in the 2008 Iowa Democratic caucuses. Cruz’s victory was further aided by a deep and wide support he received from the evangelical base of his party, the same group Trump and Rubio wooed feverishly in the few days before the contest.
Celebrating his victory to enthusiastic reception last night, Cruz described the result of the caucuses as “a victory for courageous conservatives.” His speech was part a victory speech, part a critique of the Washington media and Establishment politicians, both of which have been among his targets since his campaign began. After his speech, Cruz flew to New Hampshire where he hopes to replicate another come-from-behind victory against Trump who, by a wide margin, currently leads the rest of the Republican field.
Although he was gracious in his own remarks, Trump’s concession speech was brief. He thanked the people of Iowa and confessed his love and admiration for them despite the outcome of the caucuses. He also joked that he might come back and buy a farm there. Both the tone of his speech and his body language were uncharacteristically subdued. Missing was that bluster every one had got used to on the campaign trail. He did not badmouth anyone either.
Unlike Cruz whose victory was announced by his party and the media last night, Hillary Clinton’s razor-thin defeat of Bernie Sanders, her Democratic rival, was not officially declared by the Democratic Party until more than 15 hours after the Iowa contest, said to be the closest in the state’s history, had ended. Clinton had 49.8 percent of the total votes cast to Sanders’ 49.6 percent. But ahead of the Iowa Democratic Party’s decision, Clinton had already got on stage last night in Des Moines, Iowa, and claimed victory over Sanders and Martin O’ Malley, her second rival, a decision that caused so much chatter in the media until the official announcement came. Clinton said she could now finally heave “a huge sigh of relief”, apparently a reference to her 2008 loss of that state’s caucuses to Obama. Despite the narrow win, Clinton must be feeling she has shaken the monkey off her back.
And like Cruz, Clinton wasted no time in jetting to New Hampshire, where she celebrated with her supporters, all of whom packed a Nashua gym to overflowing. “I am so thrilled that I am coming to New Hampshire after winning Iowa… I can tell you, I’ve won there and I’ve lost there. And it’s a lot better to win,” an elated Clinton said to loud applause at the Nashua rally.
Sanders, a 74-year-old “social democrat” who preaches revolution, was yet to concede defeat to Clinton as this report was being published. Earlier, the Vermont senator had said after landing in New Hampshire, “We’re going to fight really hard in New Hampshire and then we’re going to Nevada, to South Carolina, we’re doing well around the country.” Sanders is widely projected to win New Hampshire handily as most polls have him leading Clinton by a whole lot there.
If Clinton was hoping to wrap up the nomination contest in double quick time so she could set her sights on her Republican opponent, Sanders’ astonishing performance and his determination to go the whole hog might have already put paid to that hope. It could be one long slog to the Convention, one that could also potentially weaken Clinton if she eventually becomes the nominee.